One week ago, I had just sat down on the piano bench in the Primary room and started to play some wiggle songs while the junior primary children galloped in, restless from an hour spent on church pews, when a fellow ward member scared me to pieces by reverently kneeling beside the piano and whispering my name. I startle easily, especially by people who are trying to be inconspicuous. He reminded me that it was the fifth Sunday and I was supposed to be providing music for an afternoon service at a local nursing home and did I remember the 2 p.m. start time and had I arranged for a special musical number in addition to the group hymn singing?
My first response was to yell in fright. Then I expressed surprise. Not only had I not prepared any of those things, I had completely forgotten all about the meeting. My third response was frustration…at my phone! Why had it not reminded me? A quick check of my iPhone calendar showed that I had entered some wrong information (a.m. instead of p.m. and on the wrong day) and thus the reminders were not due to start for another two days…in the middle of the night. Blerg. My fourth response was exhaustion. I was so tired, I was already daydreaming about an afternoon nap at 10:10 a.m. I had been telling myself since I WOKE UP that as soon as Primary was done, we would skedaddle on home, I would microwave some kind of pizza food product for my children, and then I would collapse into my bed, Rip Van Winkle style. My head actually hurt just thinking about NOT being able to nap.
And in my defense, I did end up getting sick later that night and missed some work the next day and took some medicine, so it wasn’t only a matter of craving a lazy Sunday. I was worn out. But the truth is, in that moment I mostly wanted to not go do the thing I had agreed to go do the previous month. In theory, I loved the idea of getting involved in nursing home outreach. The idea reminded me of volunteering I had done as a child and I wanted similar experiences for my children. I want my kids to find joy in such service. But in reality, I wanted the service opportunity to come at a more-convenient-for-me time. I am not proud to admit my thoughts, but there you have it. However, this kneeling, whispering man reminded me both how much the nursing home residents looked forward to the singing (Him: “It’s their favorite part!”) and that I was supposed to bring enlarged copies of the music (My mind: “??!?!!!”). So it was on.
After church, we raced home and my children rooted through the pantry for some kind of hasty nourishment – BBQ chips and PBJ sandwiches on the go, anyone? And then we raced over to my office so I could make some copies. And then I stamped my foot in frustration when my building key did not work. And then I realized I had less than 30 minutes to get to the nursing home. And then I dragged my children to Kinko’s and fished a hymnbook from the back of my vehicle and made beautifully enlarged 11×17 copies of about 10 hymns (my conditioned children: “Why are you shopping on Sunday, Mom?!”) and then sped over to the nursing home and walked in right at 1:57 p.m.
Side note: my preteen son has reached that weird appetite milestone that allows him to consume huge quantities of food and still be ravenously hungry, like ‘eat an entire box of Cap’n Crunch in one hour’ hungry. So as we are trotting up to the nursing home, he says, “I really hope there’s lots of good food here!” I was walking too quickly to respond, but I did roll my eyes. And when he got inside and saw nothing but a water fountain, he slumped dejectedly into a rocking chair and closed his eyes.
During the service, we sing “Onward Christian Soldiers,” “How Firm a Foundation,” “I Need Thee Every Hour,” and “Abide With Me, Tis Eventide,” which is one of my top five favorites from the LDS hymnal. There are some talks given in between the songs. A young woman from the ward plays a lovely violin solo. We sing again. As I play, I recognize one elderly woman from our ward in the front row, but guess that the other 25 or so attendees are not LDS but just facility residents who enjoy any kind of church service on a Sunday afternoon. After the closing prayer, a few of those attendees pat my hand and thank me and the group for being there. I tell them I am so happy I came, and I mean it! Sometime in between the first and fourth verses of that opening hymn, which is not even one of my favorites, I felt my exhaustion temporarily slip away. I was happy to be there.
There was no nap that afternoon. Turns out the singing at the nursing home wasn’t the only activity I had forgotten about. The rest of the day was packed as well. Turns out I have to actually enter information into my phone correctly if I want to receive a pinging reminder. Turns out I need to do a better job with my schedule.
And it turns out, too, that an hour or so of singing and listening with a group of mostly strangers in a nearby nursing home multipurpose room is just what my afternoon needed.
So tell me about you! Any service opportunities in your community, neighborhood, family or church congregation that have surprised you? Any “inconvenient” activities that turned out to be just what you needed, just when you needed them?